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Train Until Crisis Response is Second Nature (Part 1 of 2)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

Bruce Beggs |

“What planning and training must a laundry manager or textile rental operator coordinate to prepare his/her employees to react safely and swiftly during a crisis in the facility, such as a fire or other life-threatening event?” Consulting: David Chadsey, Capital Equipment Consulting, Winter Haven, Fla.
Dryers catch fire, boilers explode, water lines burst, and sometimes people get too close to moving parts. Emergencies happen in the commercial laundry environment. Management planning and operator training can minimize property loss and possibly save somebody’s life.
Fire is the most common emergency that laundries face. Operators should know exactly what to do, in the event of fire in a given situation. Specific fire procedures are included in most equipment manuals. In addition to formal operator training, these procedures should be displayed in work areas, so that operators have repeated exposure. Once the fire starts, it’s too late to look for the manual.
What do you do if your 400-pound-capacity dryer starts bellowing smoke out of the door seals during a cycle? If you said hit the “E-Stop,” you may have just burned down the plant.
Most large dryers have on-board fire suppression that requires power to operate. If you shut down the machine, the solenoid that opens the water valve won’t work. Consult your specific manufacturer’s manual for proper procedures. Most identify an optional manual valve for dryer-fire suppression.
Regular preventive maintenance (PM) is good insurance against an emergency. All pressure vessels, such as boilers, and air systems should be on a regular PM program from a certified service company.
A regular factory-service review is recommended by most manufacturers of wash-aisle and finishing equipment for operational and safety issues.
In addition to keeping your equipment dialed-in to factory production specs, these maintenance audits will help keep plant technical personnel accountable for safety maintenance on parts such as door switches and machine guards.Healthcare Laundry: Jesse VanOven, Greater Binghamton (N.Y.) Health Center (WEB EXCLUSIVE)
While GBHC’s OPL was in operation, we had mutual-aid agreements with three healthcare facilities in our area until closures of their laundries, after which we made an agreement with a local commercial laundry.
Our facility implements several emergency preparedness drills annually followed by critiquing by all departments. One of the practices we have followed throughout my tenure is to have linen inventories to suffice for four days and advising our shared service facilities to follow suit.
Throughout the years, we experienced one closure of our laundry due to a fire that interrupted services for a short time. With the increased linen inventory, our services to our customers were impacted little.
A short time prior to the fire, an underground cross-connect steam line was in need of repair, leaving the operation idle briefly. As our maintenance and administrative staffs were committed to repairing the leak in a timely manner, work was completed within a couple working days, thus reducing the rate of lost production.
By having backup generators available, we haven’t experienced electrical issues. Uniforms: Barb Herman, SanMar Corp., Issaquah, Wash.
Having implemented several programs during my years in laundry operations, one of the key elements I learned was to keep it simple. This is my effort to put into a simple outline, and a few explanatory words, the key and most important elements of an effective plan.Step 1: Know Everyone — Make a list of every single person on your staff. Don’t forget your part-timers and temps!Step 2: Connect the Dots — Your complete roster of full-time, part-time and temps should appear on one document, separated by teams of 10 (or fewer, depending on staff size) and listed with team captains and assistant captains.Step 3: Designate Safe Exits — Designate only areas in your building that allow open outside access; do not designate areas with chemicals or heavy equipment. Make sure to cover all sides and corners of your operation when viewing possible exits.Step 4: Post Proper Signage and Lighting Alarms — Have designated exits properly identified with both signs and visual lighting (like red alarm lights).Step 5: Have a Proper Manual Alarm System — Make sure all key areas of plants have alarm pulls that can signal the visual and audible alarms to exit. It is suggested that you have an audible alarm that differs from any other bell system in your laundry operation.Step 6: Designate a Meeting Area Outside — Any alarm should prompt employees to meet in one place to be accounted for by team. A typical meeting place is in front of your office in an open parking lot (or similar).Step 7: Train Your People — Training should be ongoing at every single key meeting of departments, and be part of your new-employee orientations. Have different employees read parts when reviewing plans. If you have non-English-speaking personnel, make sure to have an interpreter and supply your documents in both languages.Step 8: Drill — Run regular drills to make sure the entire staff understands the program. Test the accountability at the meeting place. Teach people to walk swiftly, not run.Step 9: Know Whom to Call — Specify the proper authorities to call for certain potential disasters. Bring these organizations into your plan. Give them copies and ask for their advice.Step 10: Print and Distribute Regularly — At least quarterly, distribute printed copies of the plan, including maps, to all personnel. Copy the same to local authorities at least annually.Step 11: Evaluate Through Experts — Whether it’s a colleague or an insurance expert, have someone evaluate and update your plan. Get someone who will visit your specific operation and view your property. Have your plan evaluated at least yearly after the initial visit.Step 12: Never Stop — This needs to become a culture, not a standby. Like any training, it should never end.Textile/Uniform Rental: John Shoemaker, General Linen & Uniform Service, Detroit
There is a saying that I just love—Luck is the residue of design.
Since the days in school, we had drills quarterly on how to react in the event of nuclear fallout and access the safety shelters and underground tunnels that were built in the school.
The military does what with recruits today? It trains, trains and trains, until it is second nature.
So as to the answer to this question, I think it is to design a plan for the event in question, review it with key managers, and then train, train and train some more.
The training can be quick, depending on the scenario. It could be as little as 15 minutes a month for fire training.Commercial Laundry: Rick Rone, Laundry Plus, Sarasota, Fla.
How many of us actually show a new employee how to properly use a fire extinguisher and make sure we have the correct class of extinguisher for the application? Are they located in the proper place, and are they fully charged?
We have a tendency to rotate personnel around our plants until we find a position where they are the most productive. Once we have ascertained where that is, we must provide additional training, starting with proper operation of machinery and safeties and culminating with the location of the closest, properly lit emergency exit.
Training should include the location of all circuit breakers (which must be properly labeled), and all valves (air, gas, steam and water).
For those of us whose business model necessitates 365-day-a-year operation, are the weekend employees and supervisors trained as well as (or better than) their counterparts working during the week?
Are emergency numbers posted in numerous areas around the facility? Is everybody on staff familiar with your chain of command (who gets called first)?
All management personnel should be aware of what can and will happen when certain laundry chemicals are mixed. Has everybody in your washroom (at the minimum) been properly trained as to these real dangers?
Are all your MSDS kept only in a front office or maintenance office? Probably not going to do you a lot of good there! Are they and every other safety item in your plant written in a minimum of both English and Spanish?
We have all read about fires caused by spontaneous combustion. If you are processing bar rags, printing rags or shop towels and uniforms, are the proper handling procedures in place?
I don't know how many of us see OSHA inspectors on a routine basis but they are not necessarily the bad guys some report them to be. OSHA’s model is designed to be one that even the owner of a small business can use without the need of expensive training materials or a professional trainer.Check back next Thursday, March 3, for Part 2!

About the author

Bruce Beggs

American Trade Magazines LLC

Editorial Director, American Trade Magazines LLC

Bruce Beggs is editorial director of American Trade Magazines LLC, including American Coin-Op, American Drycleaner and American Laundry News. He was the editor of American Laundry News from November 1999 to May 2011. Beggs has worked as a newspaper reporter/editor and magazine editor since graduating from Kansas State University in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children.

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